Topic: Consecration And Submission In The Church
TEXTS: Numbers 6:1-9; 1 Peter 2:9; Acts 4:32-37; 1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13; Hebrews 13:7
Orderliness, peaceful co-existence and progress are prevalent attributes wherever there is submissiveness. However, rancour, pandemonium, confusion and crisis exist wherever self reigns supreme. The church of God, the body of Christ, is an assembly of the called-out ones, who have tasted of God’s saving grace; they are called out of darkness into the marvellous light of the gospel. Ekklesia, the Greek word for church, is used one hundred and fifteen times in the Bible. Generally speaking, it refers to the body of believers, the universal Church. A gathering of the company of believers who meet regularly for Christian fellowship, edification, revival and worship is referred to as a church. For a church to be wholesome, effective and established, the membership has significant parts to play. These parts, depending on how they are played, determine the success or failure of the church. The degree of success achieved by the early Church was not without consecration and submission the two attributes that form the focus of this study.
CONSECRATION AND SUBMISSION AMONG BELIEVERS (Acts 4:32-37; Ephesians 5:21-24; Romans 12:10,16)
A church, to a large extent, is what the members make it. A church whose members are consecrated and submissive will experience a great degree of growth, success and holiness. The church has a two-fold task: to the outside world and to individual members of the church. This cannot be effectively carried out without consecration and submission on the part of the members. It may sound paradoxical, yet it is true, that although all believers are equal before God, there are those He has appointed to exalted positions of specific calling. This presupposes that there must be leadership and followership in the church. To ensure smooth operations among the leaders and followers, therefore, there must be consecration and submission. The Bible frowns at pride, arrogance, selfishness, uncooperative attitudes and insubordination.
There are certain essentials which make a church wholesome, effective and established. More than any other factor, the membership of any church is the greatest factor that determines the success or failure of that church. Much encomiums have been showered on the early Church because of the degree of success they experienced. The two essentials, which made the early Church as well as other Bible churches to achieve great success, are consecration and submission. There is a widespread notion among believers concerning what constitutes the strength and stay of the church. Many believe that it is the pastor or minister that makes the church what it is. This is true to an extent. But it is by no means the whole truth. The attitude and contribution of members go a long way in making the church what it is. God expects every member of a Bible church to be consecrated. Consecration is the act of setting apart anything or person to the worship or service of God. Consecrated persons are those who, in spite of position, achievement and wealth, have yielded their lives unreservedly to the service and glory of God. When the call to consecration comes to a believer and he responds to God by laying all on the altar of consecration, he becomes a consecrated believer (1 Chronicles 29:5). From thenceforth, he becomes committed to God, to the church and to the progress of the gospel.
CONSECRATION AND SUBMISSION: THE SCRIPTURAL PATTERN (Numbers 6:1-9,13-21; Mark 10:42-45; John 15:15; Matthew 8:9; Luke 17:10)
Divine blueprint for consecration and submission has been given in the Scriptures. Irrespective of the social standing of any believer, everyone is expected to esteem others better than themselves. Unlike in the world where masters lord it over others, the Christian leader is not to arrogate power or respect to himself. Rather, believers are given the divine injunctions mandating everyone to honour the Lord and the spiritual leader. The Lord lays so much emphasis on the need to honour Christian leaders that He puts a stamp of authority on it. Hence, the Bible says, “He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 4:8). Believers are not to gossip, backbite or rebel against leaders as this is bound to attract divine judgment whether immediately or afterwards (Numbers 12: 10, 14). Another express command to all heaven-bound pilgrims is “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17). The fact that disobedience to God’s instruction no longer attracts immediate punishment does not mean that offenders will ultimately escape God’s punishment.
In the Old Testament, a special group of people referred to as “the Nazarites” were separated unto the Lord. It is evident, in our text, that they were bound by a vow to be set apart from others for the service of God. Having vowed “a vow of a Nazarite, to separate themselves unto the LORD” , they were devoted to Him during the time of their Nazariteship, and their time was spent in service and commitment to Him. Their whole life and conduct were characterised by separation and consecration. In the New Testament, the emphasis shifts to the believer. In the dispensation of the gospel, all true Christians are a chosen generation and a royal priesthood. The believers now are what the Nazarites then aspired to be, through consecration. In God’s programme for the church, every believer is a priest unto Him, separated from sin and sinners, consecrated, and offering — as it were — spiritual services to God through faithful involvement in the ministry of the local church. God’s standard for the church is clearly demonstrated and taught in the Scripture. The church cannot be patterned after secular institutions. The world’s concepts of leadership, obedience and commitment will not work for the church. The Bible has outlined instructions and procedures to guide us as believers. “But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). Undoubtedly, the church was established by the Lord “…for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting” (1 Timothy 1:16). If we are going to the same heaven with believers of the early Church, our consecration and submission cannot be different. We need to ensure we possess the virtues that marked them out.
CONSECRATION AND SUBMISSION IN PRACTICE (1 Thessalonians 5: 12, 13; Hebrews 13: 7; James 1:22; 2:1- 4; Galatians 5:16,26)
In the presence of Christ, carnal glory and earthly distinctions disappear. Consecration and submission transcend mere profession. Every member of the church has to show by their actions that they are consecrated and yielded to the Lord and to His church. When one becomes consecrated to the Lord, he surrenders all ambitions, aspirations and achievements to Him. As he continues in the Kingdom, he needs to manifest a sense of insufficiency and dependence on God as well as be in subjection to church leadership. Truly consecrated and submissive Christians always see to it that they sink their egos, personal opinions and differences and accept unreservedly and wholeheartedly scriptural authority. God places a high premium on obedience and submission. Disobedient Christians or incorrigible believers are contradictions in terms. According to our texts, the early believers were entirely consecrated and submitted to the Lord. They were neither rebellious nor possessive. They even submitted their property and wealth for common use. They were loyal members who gave proper regards and cooperation to the leadership of the church. An acid test for consecration and submission is this: If you were to find yourself in the early Church, what influence or impact would your personal life and attitude have had on the success of the church? Although we are in the last days and flagrant disobedience and rebellion are the order of the day, believers who are wise will ensure that they pattern their lives according to the word of God. The pastor of the local church is the spiritual father of all the members of the church. He should be highly esteemed and honoured as a servant of the Lord and leader of God’s people. There is a reward for honouring and cooperating with church leadership (Matthew 10:41). We are specifically commanded to esteem very highly those who labour over us in the Lord (1 Thessalonians 5: 12, 13). Ministers are to be revered and respected by church members. If we respect our superiors in our places of work, how much more those who are preparing us for heaven. Any respect, so-called, without sincere obedience falls below God’s standard. Every member of the church should obey pastors and ministers whom God has appointed as leaders over them. It, therefore, means that the entire membership of a Bible church will follow the directions and accept wholeheartedly the visions that God gives the pastor from time to time. There is blessing in obedience. The Lord knows those who are consecrated and committed to obeying the totality of His word. “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” (2 Timothy 2:19; 1 Peter 4:17). He watches our attitudes in and toward His church. God calls all believers to a life of consecration and submission. Our obedience to His expectation will enhance the unity and growth of the church and result in the advancement of the gospel frontiers to hitherto unreached people and lands. So, more souls will be won and God gloried.